important to understand how manufacturing enterprises can actually make use of the technology. Even today, much useful technology remains unused. Innovators in manufacturing must ensure that human, institutional, and societal factors are aligned in such a way that information technology can be deployed meaningfully. This is a difficult but essential task, since even great technology that goes unused is not particularly beneficial to anyone.
Data, information, and decisions need to be communicated accurately across the breadth and depth of manufacturing organizations. Many mechanisms can contribute to enhancing communication, including sabbatical programs for industrialists and academics in each other's territory, teaching factories, and advanced technology demonstrations that illustrate how the use of information technology can benefit factory performance.
Considerable research in social science will be necessary to facilitate the large-scale introduction of information technology into manufacturing. In particular, fully exploiting new technologies generally requires new social structures. Innovators will have to confront issues such as the division of labor between human and computer actors, the extent and content of communications between those actors, and how best to organize teams of human and computer resources.
Matters related to education and training will be central to 21st-century manufacturing. Given an environment of increasingly rapid change, continual upgrading of skills and intellectual tools will be necessary at all levels of the corporate hierarchy. "Just-in-time learning," that is, learning things as it becomes necessary to know them, may assume added importance.
Finally, although businesses depend increasingly on their intellectual and information assets, generally accepted accounting principles that businesses use to audit their finances and operations are derived from a business philosophy in which capital expenditures (i.e., expenditures that relate to the long-term value of a company) are associated with buildings and pieces of equipment. Research is needed to develop valuation schemes that appropriately account for the contribution of knowledge and core competencies to manufacturing and enterprise values.